Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Rifleman Valentine Joe Strudwick, 8th Battalion, the Rifle Brigade (the Prince Consort’s Own), was killed by a shell at Boezinge in Flanders.
One of eleven children of a jobbing gardener and a laundress, he was born on the 14th of February, hence being christened Valentine. He attended St. Paul’s School in Dorking before leaving at an early age to work for his uncle, who was a coal merchant.
In January of 1915, at the age of fourteen, he enlisted at Lambeth in Surrey, being tall and strong enough to convince the recruiting officer that he was nineteen. His mother wanted him to wait until he was old enough, but he was determined and could not be swayed. He received six weeks’ training and then was sent to the fighting in France. The reality of war was impressed on Rifleman Strudwick early on – two of his close friends were killed instantly beside him, and he himself was badly gassed. He was sent home to recuperate and spent three months in hospital at Sheerness. Once recovered he was sent back to his regiment in France.
On the day of his death he was at Boezinge in Flanders, not involved in heavy fighting but engaged in what was described as the “daily rounds of firing” between the Germans and the allies, when he was killed by an enemy shell. His mother received this letter from his commanding officer: “I am very sorry indeed to have to inform you that your son was killed by a shell…his death was quite instantaneous and painless and his body was carried by his comrades to a little cemetery behind the lines, where it was reverently buried this morning. A cross is being made and will shortly be erected on his grave. Rifleman Strudwick had earned the goodwill and respect of his comrades and his officers, and we are very sorry indeed to lose so good a soldier. On their behalf as well as my own I offer you sincere sympathy.” He is buried in the Essex Farm Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen in Belgium. His mother chose the inscription for his headstone: “Not gone from memory or from love.”
Valentine, from Dorking, was 15 years old.